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A Rush for Technology Dollars? Not So Fast


 

HM program directors, particularly those involved in technology upgrades at their institutions, probably have heard a lot about electronic health record (EHR) attestation since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that registration was open last month. But while CMS is pushing for physicians and hospitals to register as soon as possible, at least one informatics professional suggests that there is no major hurry to apply for the $20 billion the federal government has set aside for doctors and hospitals that adopt new technologies.

“I’m of the approach there is no rush to sign up even though we know we’re going for the funds,” says Anne M. Bobb, an informatics pharmacist in the Department of Quality and Clinical Informatics at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. “We want to do it in a reasonable amount of time.”

Bobb, who works closely with the hospitalists at Northwestern Memorial, says that both “eligible professionals” and “eligible hospitals” have ample time to apply. She says applicants remain eligible for reimbursement as long as they register by fiscal year 2013 (eligible physicians [EP] and eligible hospitals [EH] need only 90 days of reporting for year one; measurements must begin and registration must be completed by EPs on July 3, 2013, and Oct. 3, 2013 for EHs). In addition, groups that register before then and stutter-step in their compliance because their nascent programs are just developing their protocol could jeopardize potential funding.

Those physicians and institutions that want certification must meet “meaningful use” criteria, defined by CMS last summer as meeting prescribed rules for implementation of EHR. Stage 1 rules, which take effect this year, require eligible physicians (EPs) and eligible hospitals to meet goals in 15 and 14 categories, respectively. Up to five goals can be deferred, according to CMS. The CMS timeline includes second and third stages, each of which will require goals that are even more advanced. The thresholds must be met to qualify for funding.

It’s understandable CMS wants to jump-start registration, but individual physicians and hospitals should take their time to determine what works best for them. “If you know you’re not going to make it for fiscal year 2011,” she asks rhetorically, “why go after it now?”

The registration process began Jan. 3 in Alaska, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. More states, including California, are expected to open the process as early as this month.

For more information on what is needed to register, visit the EHR Incentive Program microsite. The EHR Information Center can be reached at 888-734-6433.

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